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Yes, this tax can save your life

Cigarettes kill. There is no doubt in the minds of scientists, clinicians, or even smokers. Armed with that fact, why is it so hard for America to kick the habit?
A brief report in the November 29, 2012 NEJM from the Congressional Budget Office models the effect of a 50 cent per pack increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes (currently the rate is $1.01 per pack). By 2021:
  • 1.4 million adults would become nonsmokers
  • 10,000 adults would have lived who otherwise would have died from smoking
  • $730 million in reduced health costs to Medicare and Medicaid
  • $700 million of increased revenues from increased economic productivity
By 2085:
  • 3 million adults would become nonsmokers
  • 200,000 adults would be alive instead of dead because of the policy change
  • During the mid-2060's the initial cost savings for health care would be offset by increased costs due to longevity
  • Health effects and excise tax revenue combined would reduce the federal deficit throughout the entire time frame
Here's the money shot: CBO-43319 (Public Domain)

Clearly, health and fiscal policy dictate that the federal excise tax on cigarettes should continue to climb. In a prior review, we suggest increasing it to at least $2.20 per pack (in 2010 dollars).

For a more detailed explanation download the full CBO report here.

Baumgardner, JR, et al. “Cigarette taxes and the federal budget – Report from the CBO.” NEJM 2012; 367: 2068-2070.


Cedric Dark, MD, MPH






About Cedric Dark, MD, MPH, FACEP

Cedric Dark, MD, MPH, FACEP, FAAEM is Founder and Executive Editor of Policy Prescriptions®. A summa cum laude graduate of Morehouse College, where he received a B.S. in biology, Dr. Dark earned his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine. He holds a master’s degree from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He completed his residency training at George Washington University while serving as Chief Resident in the 2009-2010 academic year. Currently, Dr. Dark is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Emergency Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. He serves on the American College of Emergency Physicians‘ State Legislative and Regulatory Committee, the Texas College of Emergency Physicians‘ Communications Committee, and produces a health policy podcast for the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Dark’s commentary and opinions on this website are his own and do not represent the views of Baylor College of Medicine, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, or the Texas College of Emergency Physicians. Contact: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | YouTube | More Posts

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